Health of former Indonesian dictator critical

Indonesia’s former dictator Suharto was put on a ventilator on Friday to keep him alive after suffering multiple organ failure.

Doctors said the brain and other organs of the the 86-year-old retired general lost most of their function at 5pm, triggering a loss in blood pressure and making breathing difficult.

“We cannot say how long” he can be kept alive, one member of the medical team at the Central Pertamina hospital in Jakarta said.

Mr Suharto, who ruled Indonesia with an iron fist for 32 years until 1998, was taken to hospital eight days ago with anaemia, low blood pressure, lung problems and barely functioning kidneys. Doctors had wanted to insert a second pacemaker into his heart - the first was put in several years ago- but his condition was too weak for them to do so.

For several days his lungs have been filling with fluid and on Friday morning medics said Mr Suharto appeared to have the first signs of an infection in his lungs. They treated him with antibiotics to prevent the infection developing into pneumonia but his condition deteriorated.

Suharto’s youngest son, Hutomo Mandala Putra, known as Tommy, told reporters at the hospital earlier that his father’s condition was not improving. ”On behalf of our family, we would like to thank fellow countrymen who have prayed for his recovery. For those who did so, hopefully you will receive something good in return,” he said. ”The most important thing is that he gets better.”

Jusuf Kalla, the country’s vice-president, was at the hospital Friday night to witness Mr Suharto’s death, according to a source in his office. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is away in Malaysia.

Mr Suharto has suffered two strokes and myriad other illnesses since he was toppled amidst student-led protests and an economic crisis in 1998. Anti-corruption watchdogs like Transparency International have said he allegedly amassed an illegal fortune for himself, his family and cronies of tens of millions of dollars, but his poor health has prevented him fromstanding trial.

Prosecutors began criminal corruption proceedings in 2000 but doctors declared him unfit to answer them. Charges were dropped and he has never faced a court.

Last year the government filed a civil suit, which is not dependent on the defendant’s health, against Mr Suharto and one of his foundations. Prosecutors are seeking $1.54bn in damages after the one-time autocrat allegedly used the foundation to steal $440m and siphon it off to companies controlled by his family and cronies.

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